300 Redefines epic as only 300 buff, sweaty Spartans

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Scene from 300

Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Heady, David Wenham

4 stars

“Our arrows will blot out the sun.”

“Then we shall fight in the shade.”

Would you have the balls to say this facing “the 1,000 nations of the Persian Empire”?

In 300, Spartan warrior Stelios (Michael Fassbender) does.

300 may be a film about underdogs, but it definitely wasn’t the underdog at the box office this weekend.

Director Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel has been discussed more than Britney Spears’ new look. But does it deliver?

300 will blow your mind. Parts may leave you speechless, breathless or make you wet yourself. It appeals to everyone’s inner warrior.

The film chronicles the Battle of Thermopylae, when 300 Spartans held off anywhere between 10,000 and 1,000,000 angry Persians.

300 isn’t very historically accurate, as the majority of the Persians are presented as bloodthirsty beasts and the Spartans’ eight-packs are straight out of Men’s Health.

The film’s stunning visuals are its strongest element. 300 almost surpasses Sin City in both abstractness and creativity. The mix of fantasy creatures, fluid camera work and stylistic settings scream Frank Miller. The movie successfully captures the graphic novel’s grittiness.

The fight scenes are particularly strong. Snyder uses extensive slow-motion camera pans, so unlike in Gladiator and Troy, you can actually see the acrobatic swordplay and intricate choreography.

Despite the lack of “big names,” the acting is impressive. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) defines intensity. Although he angrily yells nearly all his lines, Butler makes the character believable.

Lena Headey works well in the classic “assertive wife protecting her husband and kingdom” role, while Spartan captain (Vincent Regan) holds steady as the battle-hardened second-in-command. The story is narrated well by the soldier Dilios (David Wenham).

Snyder strikes a fine balance between skull-smashing fight scenes, pant-tightening sex scenes and actual plot. While the plot is fulfilling, you’re always craving the next gut-wrenching battle or shameless display of naked bodies.

The 18-A rating is appropriate, as the film has enough gore and softcore porn to fill three hours on Showcase. However, minimizing these elements would lessen the film’s effect and wouldn’t stay true to Miller’s graphic novel.

The film’s only downfall were a few truly cliché moments attempting to evoke emotion. Like Return of the King showed us, an epic can only be so epic before it becomes cheesy.

300 sets the bar high early in a year sure to be filled with epic films and comic-book adaptations. Who doesn’t want to join in the slaughter?

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